Cambridge-Africa

Africa’s oldest and most unusual trees are mysteriously dying

12 June 2018

Some of Africa’s oldest and most unusual trees have mysteriously started dying – and scientists think climate change may be to blame.

An exceptional number of baobabs, which are known to live for up to 2,000 years – and maybe longer – have died in the past 13 years, experts found.

Baobabs, also known as “dead rat” trees, after the shape of their fruit, are among the most distinctive plants in the world, with up to seven giant trunks that can look like pillars. They start growing as a single trunk but over time develop others.

Thanks to their size, they contain hundreds of square metres of wood but have massive hollow centres.

Adrian Patrut, a Romanian professor of inorganic and radiochemistry, and colleagues used radiocarbon dating to analyse more than 60 of the largest and oldest baobab trees in Africa to try to find out how the trees could grow so large.

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